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Lecture to discuss implicit attitudes in tort law

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This year's Monsanto Lecture at Valparaiso University School of Law will focus on a 7th Circuit case on transporting toxic liquid and implicit attitudes with regards to tort law.

Professors Jon Hanson, Harvard Law School, and Douglas Kysar, Yale Law School, will use Indiana Harbor Belt R.R. Co. v. American Cyanamid Co., 916 F.2d 1174 (7th Cir. 1990), in their March 19 lecture "Abnormally Dangerous: Inequality Dissonance and the Making of Tort Law." In Indiana Harbor, authored by Judge Richard Posner, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a shipper of a hazardous chemical is held to a negligence standard for the consequences of a spill during a shipment, and that strict liability is only imposed when the high degree of risk associated with the activity can't be eliminated through due care.

The professors will examine what might explain why courts sometimes prefer a negligence standard when their logic could easily have led them to a strict liability alternative by using behavioral science.

There is growing evidence that the reasons people give for their behavior and decisions are rarely causal and are often confabulatory. The field of social cognition, for instance, has demonstrated through countless experiments that "implicit attitudes" and "implicit motives," which lie outside the purview of introspection, play a far more significant role in shaping our attitudes, ideologies, and behavior than most people realize or care to acknowledge.

The professors will discuss whether an understanding of those implicit processes might help explain why the Circuit Court held that the activity of transporting highly toxic and flammable chemicals through residential areas wasn't abnormally dangerous and thus not subject to strict liability.

The lecture begins at 4 p.m. CDT in Wesemann Hall, 656 S. Greenwich St. It is free and open to the public and one unit of CLE credit will be offered. A form will be available for self-reporting.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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